Ineligible Man Downfield: Remembering Les Levine
Plus: A new story about Matthew Dellavedova indicates that his career might be over soon.
Les Levine: Remembering a Friend
Anyone who says “Don’t meet your heroes” never knew Les Levine.
In my short time in the Cleveland sports media, I was lucky enough to see and cover a lot of cool things. Perhaps the coolest thing I ever got to do was be the first local voice on air to announce that the Cleveland Cavaliers won the 2016 NBA Championship.
I cracked the mic and I announced the good news, probably to nobody, because the final buzzer sounded about three minutes earlier and LeBron hadn’t even told us that this was indeed for us.
Even then, it was a super cool experience that I cherished. But today I remember it differently, and I remember a moment that somehow got lost in all of the rush of a championship-drought broken. I remember the moment just before I got to announce the good news.
As I stood there trembling, wondering how I was going to do the moment justice, I remember looking to my left and seeing Les. Sitting in his chair, calm as could be, with that wry smile, he just looked at me and said, “Is this fun, or what?”
I did my thing, and then I tossed it to one of my heroes. Looking back, I think that might be the coolest moment of my career.
Les’s passing stopped the Cleveland sports news cycle in its tracks on Thursday. I tuned into 92.3 pretty much all day at work, pausing only to go hide and cry in the bathroom. It was pretty much wall-to-wall coverage of “the self-proclaimed voice of truth and reason,” albeit three days shy of the Super Bowl.
How many others can you think of that could do that?
Les was universally loved by anyone who crossed paths with him. As the outpouring of love filtered in through the phone lines and on Twitter, Thursday, the same characteristics came up over and over: kindness, humor, and wit.
I think Jeff Phelps put it best: “Les was always a professional and always a good guy, in a profession where you’re not always both.”
Read the reactions on Twitter, and every media member of this generation that commented on Les said how influential he was on their careers. How he always listened and gave advice.
That’s who Les was. He truly cared about you, no matter who you were, or how small-time you were.
Les made time for everyone. He never had enemies, unless you were a Browns head coach who mismanaged the clock in the 4th quarter. So, like, if you were a Browns head coach. In that case, he’d be in Berea on Monday to call you on it.
Somehow, Les was everywhere. He’d fill in on the Radio at 11, be at a noon presser in Berea, host his TV show around 3, and be there for first pitch at 7:05. Through all of that, he would somehow find a way to sit down next to you in the press dining area and ask how you were doing.
And, my god, was that man funny.
Some people have a soft spot for puns, but Les made a living off of it. I mean, “More Sports and Les Levine,” how is that not the funniest shit ever? Name a bit more universally beloved than the “How Come Quickie.”
One day after listening to a segment on-air, someone texted me something to the effect of, “Is Les Levine an asshole?” I said no, you just had to understand his humor.
I guess I can understand how one could reach that conclusion. The jokes were as dry as dry could be. If you couldn’t see that slightly gap-toothed, shit-eating grin he had on after he just absolutely roasted you, it might be taken that he thought he was smarter than you.
He was smarter than you, but he was just having fun.
Today, I got a text from that same person, “he was my favorite guy on air once I got his humor.”
I never got to tell Les how much he means to me. I never got to tell him how much I looked up to him before I got to meet him, and I never got to tell him how much I appreciated his friendship once I did.
He’ll forever be a part of my fondest memory in sports radio. I wish it didn’t take until he was gone to realize how much levity and how much joy he brought to that moment. But I’ll always see that big smile, and hear that silky-smooth voice in my mind going forward.
There will be more sports. But there will never be another Les Levine. — Alex Hooper
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Who we are
Chris Manning: Site Manager at Fear the Sword, co-host of the Locked on Cavs podcast, words at places like Cleveland Magazine and Forbes. On Twitter @cwmwrites
Jordan Zirm: Social editor at @TheCheckdown. Formerly of ESPN Cleveland. Words at B/R, SB Nation and UPROXX. Host of The Rebuild podcast. On Twitter @clevezirm
Alex Hooper: Contributor at Fantasy Sports Insight. Former Cleveland Baseball Club beat writer for 92.3 the Fan (WKRK), and contributor at Sports Illustrated, Let’s Go Tribe, and the News-Herald. On Twitter @lexhooper.